The Horrors - Luminous
Knowing this album was due to be released in 2014, it was one of my most anticipated records for the year, well in advance of the start of the new music season. I listen to this album a lot and The Horrors have become one of my five favourite active bands currently making new music. I don't think it is as strong as their last effort, Skying, but it is still a fantastic mix of psych, dream pop, post-punk and like Skying, continues to unabashedly highlight Simple Minds and Bunnymen influences. The songs here have tremendous confidence and swagger, while being counter balanced with a clever aloofness that never slips into faked disinterest. A song like "Change Your Mind" shows they can still push their luck and do things that seem outside their core compliment.
Little Dragon - Nabuam Rubberband
I was aware of and had even sampled music by Little Dragon prior to this record, but honestly did not know they had made four albums previously. Even without a solid reference point, Nabuam Rubberband is one of those albums that sounds like a band coming into their own. Interesting that fellow Swedish country person Neneh Cherry released an album this year for the first time in years, since the album's opener "Mirror", and other tracks, show a respectful similarity in sound and possible influence. I would say the band's strong pop sensibilities flavour all the songs here, without this being a strict pop album. At times a challenging, yet amazingly rewarding listen, that never strays into unlistenable and feels very much like a culmination of all the things they have tried before, but with flawless execution now. This is nice work right here.
Her Name Is Calla - Navigator
There are a number of things that make this album a perfect fit for my ears, and some aspects that make it a stretch. Some of the troubadour-esque type more folk offerings like the album's opener, "I Was On The Back of A Nightingale" are generally well outside my typical listening wheelhouse. Each and every track here though, regardless of it's musical slant is completely and absolutely engaging. "The Roots Run Deep" brings in more electronic and layered production elements, so the complete sound juxtaposition even between the first two tracks is fascinating. There is a care taken though with every detail on this record which makes it truly a powerful listen. It is almost like the band has no idea they should not be able to get away with grandiose compositions, yet they are doing it with ease here.
Echo & The Bunnymen - Meteorites
Former Killing Joke bassist Youth has been busy this year, producing not only this record, but Peter Murphy's Lion as well (this former with to much more positive effect). I have heard some say the end result is a record that sits nicely alongside the band's epic run of albums in the 80's. I would suggest not quite, but it is nonetheless an album that many bands from that era who are still active, would love to be able to make in 2014. Echo & The Bunnymen have steadily released music since their heyday, and have never really made any bad records. They also have not made anything quite as brilliant as Ocean Rain or their self titled record from '87. Meteorites captures the essence of a band sounding like they should sound for their age. McCulloch's vocals are as timeless as ever. They still feel like the most successful yet underrated UK alternative band of the 80's, even after all these years. Much like Siberia from 2005, this record feels like the band reminding everyone they can still do what they do way better than all the young bands who have quietly gotten away with ripping them off for years.
Robyn & Royksopp - Do It Again
For no real good reason, I tend not to include mini albums or e.p.'s when I make best of lists. Similarly, there was no good for not highlighting the new mini album project with fellow Swedes, Royksopp and Robyn. There are so many reasons I love this recording. The highly polished and competent work of Royksopp as top tier electronic musicians. The awe inspiring ability of Robyn to move seamlessly from clever bubble gum pop recordings to an album like this with limited commercial appeal and electronic and synth chops worthy of the most hidden away underground dance clubs. These are pros, doing whatever they want, because they can.